On a recent fact-finding mission to Mozambique, Peace Parks Foundation’s Chief Development Officer, Lilian Spijkerman, and Colin Porteus, Peace Parks’ Chief Investment Officer, begin their trip in Zinave National Park, one of Mozambique’s flagship conservation areas. Their travels to Mozambique are important not only to acquaint themselves with the staff who work there but to get a feel for the lay of the land, its wildlife and all else that it entails.

After arriving at the small seaside airport of Vilanculos, Lilian and Colin are picked up by Peace Parks’ Chief Helicopter Pilot, Calvin Goosen, who takes the pair on a scenic flight over the azure waters of the Indian Ocean. The crystal-clear waters below allow the crew to gaze upon the reefs that are dotted below the surface, vital to the health of our marine ecosystems.

Upon their arrival in Zinave, Lilian and Colin are met by a large welcoming party, a herd of buffalo who, contrary to their usual feisty nature, seem quite relaxed in their company. Sightings like these have become increasingly common in Zinave, which is quite a change from what one might have seen less than half a decade ago. Project manager Bernard van Lente, who has been working in Zinave since the co-management agreement between Peace Parks and the Mozambique Government was signed, takes some time to explain a short history of the impact of Peace Parks involvement within the park.

After what was initially declared a hunting concession in the 1960s, Zinave was formally declared a protected area by the Mozambique Government in 1973. Unfortunately, due to years of conflict and human impact, the wildlife populations were decimated, and Bernard describes how eerily quiet it was – not even a bird’s call could be heard.  In 2015, Peace Parks Foundation joined forces with Administração Nacional das Áreas de Conservação to develop the park. As an integral part of the ancient wildlife migration route within the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, helping to restore the landscape and ecosystem at large is vitally important for the preservation of these species.

The main goal was to reintroduce animals that had become locally extinct in the area to bolster biodiversity so that the ecosystem could once again function. Over 2300 animals have now been relocated to Zinave National Park, with 12 species reintroduced, including grazers, browsers megafauna and predators. The most recent species that are due to be reintroduced is the rhino, which would make Zinave the first Big 5 national Park in Mozambique.

You can watch the historic return of rhino to Zinave here.

Bernard explains that no infrastructure, power or access to clean water existed in the park until Peace Parks and ANAC swiftly got to work in ensuring that facilities were established to assist with a proper productive working environment. This was a challenge in amongst itself, as the closest stone needed for construction was 250km away. During the rainy season, driving large trucks on the dirt roads was an impossible task, as the thick sand soon turns to deep mud resulting, which Tiaan and his team learnt the hard way. This resulted in only being able to build on-site during the dry season and having to build some components of the construction off-site during the wet season. Training and employing people from the local communities to help with the construction, proved to be invaluable in getting the work done – a great example of why skills development remains an integral part of the Peace Parks’ mission In 2019, infrastructure such as staff housing, ablutions, workshops, and headquarters were completed, and facilities were equipped with what was needed to run the park. Three beautiful entrance gates were also built and are now manned by rangers from the surrounding communities.

As the wildlife population continues to increase, so too does the need for sufficient tourism infrastructure, with the newest addition being a unique viewing deck built halfway up a baobab tree. Income generated through tourism, helps to boost the sustainability of the park and benefit the communities through job creation. They also receive 20% of the park’s revenue.

Zinave National Park has now been transformed into a wildlife haven where the non-stop call of birds once again fills the skies and wildlife roams freely and safely thanks to the dedicated ranger protection efforts.

Keep watching Peace Parks TV to see where Lilian and Colin head to next!